Marketing Shorts: How Sony SAB is going beyond the ‘comedy channel’ tag
Social Samosa in conversation with Vaishali Sharma and Neeraj Vyas delves into Sony Sab’s recent change in branding.
Sony SAB, a Hindi general entertainment channel (GEC) from Sony Pictures Networks India, was launched back in 1999. The channel is now changing its positioning from being a comedy channel to a ‘living room brand’ and aims to approach life’s problems with a lens of hope, through diverse content, meaningful storytelling, and real emotions
Over the years, the GEC has undergone many changes in terms of branding. With the changing brand philosophy, the channel logo was also changed in the years 2005, 2011, and 2017.
Going Beyond Comedy
Vaishali Sharma, Marketing & Communications Head, Sony SAB, PAL and Sony MAX Movie Cluster says that people are constantly evolving and to be in tune with what they are watching, the channel constantly keeps updating itself on habits and attitudes as different segments of audiences need different kinds of marketing. Hyper customization and hyper localization are key to the Sony Sab brand.
Sharma adds, “The digital medium has a very sharp cut and it has a very focused approach to how you can reach out, what you can say, and who you can say it to. From a brand and show’s perspective, tapping into the correct insight is the most critical thing. Each show has a certain philosophy and ethos, and what is the insight that you use so that you can have more people relate to it helps us position our shows very clearly in the minds of consumers.”
Sony SAB has launched three brand films as a part of its rebranding exercise.
“This is the representation of our new marketing strategy, which is communicating effectively to viewers that we are no longer a comedy channel, and we offer diverse content to families.”Vaishali Sharma
Sab TV’s flagship comedy show Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, released in 2008, played an integral role in establishing Sony Sab as a ‘comedy channel’.
“Around 4 years ago we realized we were on a cusp and as a channel not going anywhere. The lines were blurred. The whole game was on a single show that the whole of India watches, Tarak Mehta ka Oolta Chashmah and we, and our content were revolving around it. We were perceived as a comedy channel and under that pressure, we tried to make more comedy shows,” Neeraj Vyas, Business Head, Sony SAB, PAL, and Sony MAX Movie Cluster.
According to Vyas, other comedy shows were however not performing well on the channel.
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On how TMKOC stayed relevant all these years, Vaishali Sharma said, “What makes Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashma so special is that there are certain human insights that the characters resonate with, and that doesn’t change with time. We all have our vulnerabilities, we all have our hopes, and maybe the definition of that keeps changing as the times evolve. The tracks, themes, and stories the show deals with are always relevant.”
Diminishing Comedy Talent
With the content game getting stronger each day, it is important for a channel to pick out the right shows, subjects, and characters.
Vyas said, “It took me two years to understand that delivering 7 to 8 comedy shows daily which is of 24 minutes with the same efficiency and precision is tough. Comedy is a very difficult genre. The main reason is that in our creator ecosystem, there are very less writers that can give us 24 minutes of comedy content daily. Imagine the amount of talent eight shows like that would need. It is almost impossible to get people to write good comedy content that is funny and not repetitive.”
The show definitely saw some challenges now that its pillars such as Shailesh Lodha, who played Taarak Mehta in the show, startled fans when he announced his exit from the show after a 14-year run. However, Dilip who plays Jethalal still continues to hold the fort.
A very critical point is that the writing and acting talent that can deliver comedy in the television space is diminishing. There are only so many people and there are only so many shows so then if you ignore that and start to make compromises, then you get the wrong writers, cast the wrong people, and make the wrong shows.Neeraj Vyas
Sony SAB has launched a new brand campaign consisting of three films which will be promoted across the channel and social media. The channel aims to strengthen its emotional connection with its viewers through a philosophy based on the understanding that “Jo roz choti khushiya dete hai, wohi rishtey toh bade hote hai.”
Vaishali added, “For the last two to three years, we’ve experimented a lot and we’ve come up with diverse content and it has evolved. Three to four years ago, we had a lot more comedy content, we’ve completely moved away from that and telling different stories to different people in the family and different segments. We changed our packaging. We had to consolidate what we were doing and through this campaign, we express the change that we are bringing to consumers.”
Next year, Vaishali expects to see bigger changes in TV content. She expressed, “From a TV industry perspective, we are at the cusp of change. We will be looking at content from a different lens. Content that is based on human insights, which people will relate to and stems from the lives of people and from their hopes, aspiration, their challenges, and their suffering.”